Friends World Committee for Consultation - Europe & Middle East Section

Panel Presentation: Being Faithful Witnesses to our Friends Peace Testimony: Serving God in a Changing World

Contents

2. Our peace witness

Bakamana Mouana is the representative of Kinshasa Monthly Meeting, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Meeting supports Project Muinda, a peacebuilding programme.

Dear Friends,

I bring you the greetings of Kinshasa Monthly Meeting.

I will give you a brief description of the Great Lakes region in general, and my country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, in particular. And then I will present to you our witness for peace in our regions.

The Great Lakes region includes Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Congo. For many years now, all these countries, except Tanzania, have experienced a constantly-unsettled internal situation, characterised by coups d‘état, political instability, inter-ethnic conflict, massacres and genocide. All these countries are also listed as being amongst the poorest in Africa, and the people of these countries suffer not only from hunger and poverty, but also from HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases that are decimating the youngest sector of the population.

As for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, my country ought to be the leading country in the region, because of its geographic situation and its enormous natural resources; but it is, alas, a country that has never known peace. Since it gained its independence in 1960, the Congo has always been mired in recurrent crises, which have only served to reinforce divisions, political instability, tribal hatred and a culture of intolerance and mistrust. The history of the Congo is littered with every kind of grim event: power struggles, political assassinations and wars. According to the international organisations in the region, the recent war, which began on 2 August 1998, and which has scarcely come to an end, has caused approximately three million deaths. Because of its size, this war was characterised by Madame Albright, the former American Secretary of State, as being the first African world war. Seven African armies were involved: Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi on the rebel side; Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia and even Chad on the side of the government. But the people have experienced atrocities, and indescribable suffering, being forced to seek refuge in other parts of the country, hoping to find safety. Many women were raped in front of their husbands. Many young girls were raped in front of their parents. Many children under 18 were conscripted into the armed forces. You could see a small child carrying a huge weapon. Many children know the names of different weapons better than they know the titles of books.

Our peace witness. Abraham Muste said, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.” That means that peace work is an apostleship and a life that is the result of internal transformation for all those who dedicate themselves to it.

Quakers in the Congo, despite their small numbers, are determined to contribute to social transformation in our tortured country. In 1993, the Muinda Peace Project was created, and it was the first organisation to introduce the idea of peaceful conflict resolution in the Congo. We began by training and setting up “peace cells.” Peace cells are little groups composed of people who come from different tribes but who live in the same block or in the same quarter of the town. Their role is to counter false perceptions, ethnic prejudice, stereotypes, discrimination and intolerance.

Today, the idea of peaceful conflict resolution has spread right across the Congo. Other organisations have become involved in this work, and the result is remarkable in several regions, particularly in Kinshasa, which is a city of 7 million, and in the town of Kananga. During the war, and even after the war, we extended our work to healing the people who were traumatised by the war, to women, to the war-wounded and to demobilised child soldiers.

Given the vast number of different tribes that live in the Congo – 450 – and the persistence of inter-ethnic tensions, we initiated a programme of peaceful co-existence for the tribes of the Congo. That work consists of improving communication amongst our peoples.

We do not pretend that we are the only ones working for peacebuilding in Congo. Other organisations exist. We have created links with other religious groups, like the Mennonites and other Protestants. As people say, peace is a group effort. At the African level, there is a Quaker network for the promotion of peace and the prevention of conflict. But because of the lack of roads and means of communication in Congo, these groups only meet outside Congo.

We are grateful to the Friends of Europe and America for their support and their prayers, with which they have witnessed to us throughout this difficult time for our country.

To finish, I would like to quote a verse from Matthew, which for me is the most beautiful text in the entire Bible: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God”. [Matt. 5:9]

Thank you.

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